Submitted to: Meeting Abstract
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: August 18, 1997
Publication Date: N/A
The USDA-ARS is developing bioherbicide products and technologies using plant pathogens (organisms which attack plants)for control of narcotic plants. As a strategy for control of narcotic plant production in the field, bioherbicides offer an alternative to chemical herbicides. Bioherbicides are more environmentally friendly than chemical herbicides & damage only the targeted plant species. The primary narcotic plants are coca, poppy and marijuana. These plants are distinctly different in growth requirements and habits and therefore require distinctly different control strategies. Marijuana is often grown in small plots or even indoors making use of bioherbicides impractical. Opium poppy is grown as an annual preferring relatively cool growing conditions. For bioherbicides to be effective on poppy, they must be active under these growing conditions and aggressive enough to affect yield before the opium gum is harvested. Greatest success has been in development of a bioherbicide for control of coca. Isolates of the fungus Fusarium oxysporum which cause wilt of coca have been formulated into stable bioherbicides which kill coca. The bioherbicides are slow acting but since coca is a perennial plant persisting for 25 years or more, there is ample time for the bioherbicide to work. The potential effectiveness of the bioherbicide is further supported by studies of a natural epidemic of fusarium wilt which is damaging coca fields in Peru. We are continuing to evaluate new organisms and strategies for controlling narcotic plants with the goal of developing alternative control measures.